The latest spat between Chile and Chavez is much more telling than what some would think. But first, let me remind folks that it is not Venezuela's foreign policy, it is Chavez and thus the spat is between Chavez and Chile.
The Chilean Senate, without the socialist votes, decided to ask President Bachelet to protest the closing of RCTV as a violation of freedom of expression. Chavez rudely replied by saying that the Senate majority vote represented a bunch of old time fascists. It is not a waste of time to remember that the Chilean Senate majority of that vote is also an electoral majority duly and freely voted, certainly voted much more freely and democratically than the current 100% monochromatic monster in Venezuela that surrendered what little power to legislate it had to Chavez. President Bachelet, a socialist, decided to protest (Spanish and English links). I think her protestation was not strong enough, but it was at least clear and should shame her socialist brethren that should have known better than to applaud the closing of a free media for the reasons that are advanced. There are reasons why a media should close, but those do not exist in the RCTV case.
What people do not realize in this spat is that the target of Chavez is not Bachelet or even the Senate of Chile. He knows he cannot count on her although her leftist heart tends to try to be forgiving of his excess. We can remember her hesitation at supporting Venezuela for a seat at the UN security council, and hesitation so clumsy that it forced her into an embarrassing abstention vote.
Chavez knows one thing, Bachelet will be out in 3 years and she is already a weakened president when you consider that she is subject to a deteriorating social climate. Chavez is in fact already working for the post Bachelet era. By insultingly so loudly the Chilean Senate he has declared all of democratic Chile his enemy and is forcing the socialists to chose his way or risk break up among themselves. What Chavez is aiming is to a troubled end of Bachelet presidency that will cause the raising of a leftist pro-Chavez leader that might have a chance to take the next elections.
I do not see it happening, Chile is a more stable and prosperous country than Venezuela when he came to power, but Chavez does not know that nor does he care. If the successor of Bachelet is not to his liking then he will wait for another four years. He does not care; he will still be president of Venezuela. Along the way he will crucify Bachelet if he needs to do, just as he is crucifying the real left, including the historical Venezuelan Communist Party, that was with him but who happened to have very minimal differences with him.
Chileans should be very wary of this latest spat and read the writing on the wall. Trouble is heading their way. Uribe for all his merits is not a very palatable guy as the civil war he wages would have eaten alive less worthy contenders. Alan Garcia in Peru is damaged goods anyway. Kirchner is a truant and Lula has his own problems. All of these countries have flaws but Chile does not. Chile is the success story of Latin America and Chavez in his new offensive has decided to turn against Chile. He cannot afford to have Chile shown as the counter example of his misery generating system, hidden behind an avalanche of petrodollars.
The Chilean Senate has given Chavez the perfect opportunity to start his anti Chile campaign. The Senate might not have intended this but it does not know how right that rather fortuitous moment was. Bachelet and the rest of Chile should meet him head on because of they do not they will be all swallowed in the vortex that Chavez will create if allowed to do so. It is a golden opportunity for Chile, who is still a very safe county, to take the democratic lead in Latin America. There is no need to attack Chavez, just to be firm and not let him get away with international vulgarity. Do not worry, chavistas will keep buying Chilean wine, they grew a liking for it now that they can afford the most expensive bottles.